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Video: 3D-printed bike fails at first attempt to ride

Canadian designers take apparent disaster in their stride… 3D printing, it's the future...

There must be a corollary to Murphy's Law — "Whatever can go wrong, will" that says, "especially if you're at a press conference demonstrating something new and cool". These engineering students found that out the hard way when showing off their 3D-printed bike.

Second-year engineering students at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada James Nugent and Michael Mackay-MacLaren had Gabriel Wong poised to take their 3D-printed bike for a spin for the assembled press when it broke before Wong could even take a single pedal stroke.

Nugent and Mackay-MacLaren were unfazed by the failure, quickly realising that a part that should have been solid had been printed hollow, leaving insufficient material to hold it together.

Making a bike with a 3D printer is a fun challenge, but this isn't the first attempt to make — and even sell — a bike made predominantly out of plastic.

The student engineers talk about "an Ikea bike" that you'd assemble yourself, and that was exactly the premise of the Itera, launched in (where else?) Sweden in 1982.


Itera bike (Wikimedia Commons)

The product of a design exercise by Volvo, which was investigating using plastic in min-cars, the Itera was sold as a kit, with the necessary tools to assemble it in the box.

The Itera project was plagued with problems. Bikes were delivered with parts missing from the box, and if anything on the bike broke, spares were hard to get as just about every part was unique.

They were also reportedly, ahem, interesting to ride as the frames were more flexible than the standard steel frames of the era. At least they were just as pretty and stylish as Volvo's cars of the early 1980s.


1980-82 Volvo 240DL (Wikimedia Commons)

The few surviving Itera bikes are now collectors' items. If you feel you can't do without one in your life there's one for sale on eBay right now.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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